I was driving down the street the other day and saw something that you hardly ever see these days. It was a woman on a bicycle, which in itself is not uncommon in that neighborhood, but as she approached an intersection the thing that impressed me was that she was making actual hand and arm signals. Yes, on a bicycle.
You know, like we were once taught in school.
I haven’t ridden a bike in forever it seems, but I’m sure if given the opportunity I could handle one just fine after all these years. Once you’ve got a handle (pardon the pun) on the physics of balance versus speed down, it sticks with you.
It’s, if I may, as easy as riding a bike. Hey, much the same as learning to drive a stick shift automobile. For those under the age of consent who have no idea what I’m talking about, it’s driving a car the old-fashioned way. In today’s parlance, you’d call it DIY gear changing. I’m not even sure if cars come that way anymore, and that straight shifts have gone the way of curb feelers, steering wheel knobs and headlight dimmers on the floorboard. I guess I’m showing my age, but like a lot of people I know, the cars I grew up with are now considered classics.
Here’s a fun fact: A study shows that less than 20 percent of Americans know how to drive a straight shift. I find that slightly disquieting, and I’m not just whining about “they don’t make ‘em like they used to” nostalgia. No, with a manual transmission you learn stuff, specifically what that third pedal on the floor is for. You not only learn how to work the clutch without grinding the gears but also when to shift by listening to the sound of the engine.
The demise of stick shifts means that those of the Millennial persuasion don’t know what the Beach Boys were talking about in the song Shut Down when they sang “to get the traction I’m riding the clutch, my pressure plate’s burnin’, that machine’s too much,” or “my four-speed, dual quad Posi-Traction 409.”
And what the heck’s a little deuce coupe with “a competition clutch with four on the floor?”
Not to worry, all that can be Googled.
One thing’s for sure, though, I doubt if any new song coming out these days about how cool their car is would ever make the Hot 100.
I confess that although I’ve been driving automatics now ever since that little Tracker was sold 15 tears ago, I still find myself occasionally switching off the ignition without putting it into “P.”
Frankly, the last time I looked at getting a new-to-me car my priority was not if it was a four-speed or three-on-the-column but does it have a cup holder on the driver’s side door.
And, does it have an “in-the-car coffee maker?” I was reading an article about such a device you can get for your console. You just plug it into what used to be called a cigarette lighter socket and brew a cup “without taking attention from the road,” they say. I’m thinking; both a great idea and a terrible idea all at once.
‘Course now, thanks to technology cars have other 21st Century marvels, like 360-degree parking cameras, real-time gas mileage displays, or radios that show you the name of a song playing. Wait, I stand corrected. New cars do not have radios, but rather “sound systems” that give you the option of AM, FM, satellite, and Bluetooth-thingy for cell phones or other devices. And if you’re lucky there’ll be one of those old-fashioned CD players.
This leads me to wonder if there was hoopla back in 1930 on the introduction of the first automobile radio – the “Motorola.” Imagine that, Russ Columbo crooning for your girlfriend in your ragtop Duesenberg. That was 92 years ago, and here we are now with the Bluetooth thingamabob and somewhere from outer space Ed Sheeran or Justin Bieber is crooning to somebody else’s girlfriend.
Oh my. What Heraclitus said around 500 BC still goes, that the only thing that’s constant is change. And change isn’t necessarily bad.
At any rate, I don’t think I can ever bring myself to start talking to a car, à la “Hey Google, where’s the nearest Starbucks?”
Unless it’s my mother reincarnated as a 1928 Porter.
Oh my goodness, I just realized I made two Google references today. Looks like I’ve jumped into the deep end of the online swimming pool. It won’t be long before I’ll end up making rude comments on Facebook. No, on second thought, I was raised better than that.
My mother used to tell me, “rudeness is the weak person’s imitation of strength.” That was right before I got my mouth washed out with soap.